Friday, February 29, 2008


The right to vote?

Here's a shocker from Leon County Florida Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho: The Constitution of the United States does not guarantee citizens the right to vote in a presidential election.

You heard me right. The story I wrote on Sancho's talk got me arguments in the office. Everyone thinks the Constitution affords us that right, and perhaps the spirit of the Constitution does. But it doesn't explicitly give or imply that right.

Sancho quoted the infamous 2000 case Bush vs. Gore, the one that decided George Bush won the election.

In the decision, it was noted in Per Curium, Section II-B (page 104), "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College." [Bolding is mine.]

According to the 1892 Supreme Court decision in McPherson v. Blacker, state legislators can select the electors, an option which several states chose for many years — not the voter. The state can take back that power any time it chooses.

If there is a vote, equality in voting is protected; there can be no discrimination. But, the overall right to vote is not protected.

Big Brother can decide he knows what's better for us.

Sancho is calling for a constitutional amendment to ensure the right to vote for president. He believes it was an oversight by the framers of the Constitution that there is no guarantee of the right to vote. It's left up to the states.

If some partisan state officials were to decide to invoke the right to select members of the Electoral College, instead of allowing the voters to vote, there would probably be an outcry, now. But give it a few years of spin, and who knows?

Who'd have thought 10 or 15 years ago we'd have given up so many rights in the name of "Homeland Security," or that an attorney general of the United States would stand there and argue we don't really need the Geneva Convention?

Losing the "right" to vote for president could happen.

Get out and VOTE this fall.


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Amen, sister.

And am I just suspicious, or is the new definition of "American soil" cooked up by the Bush administration responsible for some lawyers now speculating that John McCain may not be a "natural born citizen" since he was born in the Canal Zone?

Padre Mickey said...

Ms. Cornelius, when John McCain was born in the Canal Zone, it was considered U.S. territory.

Now, I would never vote for the man because he is a Republican, and the fact that he is a "Zonian" (as we call them here in Panamá) would make me even less likely to vote for the man. Thank God the former Canal Zone is no longer U.S. territory but orgullosomente Panameño (proudly Panamanian) nowadays.

Saint Pat said...

While I have no plan to vote for Mr. McCain, I do think the attempt to deny his eligibility to run for presidency because he was born in the Canal Zone is an example of political hatchet work. As Padre Mickey said, it was a U.S. territory.

I know -- I used to live there.

Lindy said...

Dear Saint Pat,

I think you are right. We could loose our right to vote and other rights too. The question is, will anyone notice? I am just appalled at the apathy I'm seeing. Appalled. Anyway, I missed early voting so I'll be in line tomorrow to cast my vote for Hillary.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Thanks for the clarification, my friends.

That's what I remember. But then along came the Bushies, who claim that military installations over which the flag flies are NOT US territory. Until the 90s, the Zone was US territory, I thought. And Zonians were citizens, especially if born to parents who were citizens, especially military personnel.

As far as I recall, when one is born to American parents, one is an American citizen anyway.

But these are crazy times in which we live.

I would never vote for McCain, either, but I find it strange that this issue comes up now. I wonder if this idea comes from those who don't think he is conservative enough?

And our "right" to vote for party delegates is certainly not assured. Nor, for that matter, is our right to vote for presidential electors, as far as I can tell. Our founders distrusted democracy as rule by the rabble. After eight years of Bush, I might just concede that point, although that sounds incredibly snotty. And cynical. And I hate that.

Saint Pat said...

I think Ms. Cornelius has it - it's the powers in the party who don't think McCain is "right" enough to suit them.

Benjamin Franklin, was asked what form of government the Constitutional Convention in 1787 had created. "A republic, if you can keep it," Franklin said.

All previous attempts at sustaining democracies had failed.

While the Founding Fathers mostly came from the upper-class -- plantation owners and so forth, I think they wanted to create a system that would allow for no dictators and no king. I don't think they were thinking about one person, one vote on everything. They created a republic, with the people electing leaders who would make many decisions.

I think everyone having a vote, a say, in electing the person to our highest office is in the spirit of our republic.

If we don't cherish our rights and freedoms enough to get off our duffs and vote, we will lose those rights. We will lose our freedoms.

Franklin's cynicism will have been on target, and we will not keep our republic. There are always people ready and waiting to take it.

Anonymous said...

When I teach US Politics, I use the Constitution to explain how the parts of our government are put together and why. The fact is that we do not vote for President anyway. We vote for electors who vote for President. In some states, electors are bound by the outcome of the popular election, but not in all of them.

States pick electors in whatever manner the state legislature chooses. If they choose to allow a vote, then no one is denied the right to vote by sex or race. However, there is no obligation to allow a vote.

This is not a mistake, but was purposely inserted by the Founders. Their greatest fear was that popular elections would lead to the election of a demogogue (who might be declared monarch!). To see an example of what they feared from a direct election, just take a look at the French Revolution a few years later. The Terrors were enough to convince early republicans (small r) that they had chosen wisely.

Jefferson himself defended this as being a democratic method. His reasoning was that the state legislatures were elected, so their actions were de facto democratic.

I'm not saying I'm buying into it myself. Just explaining a bit.

Xpatriated Texan

Saint Pat said...

Thanks, Xpatriated Texan. Yes, and there's talk of doing away with the electoral college just about every election. I'm not sure what I think about that -- there are arguments pro and con. I don't see any reason to trust the will of legislators more than the will of the people.

But we can vote, and the electors have pretty much followed the people's wishes.

The more people who vote, the better.

Anonymous said...

Many or most electors are politically active and have at least local school board ambitions. That would tend to keep them from double-crossing their constituents. OCICBW